Category Archives: Church of Christ

Vince Malum Bono

Overcome Evil with Good (Romans 12:21)

What We Should Do As Gay Christians?

How do we move forward from here?  First of all, we must realize that not all heterosexual Christians hate us.  Yes, there are fundamentalists who will always hate us, and not much can be done to stop them.  Their answers are not for us. There is no need to pretend to ourselves and others to be straight.  There is no need to turn to celibacy, especially when we are in a committed relationship.

Dr. Randall Maddox, a professor at Pepperdine University, makes some great points about the Bible and homosexuality.  In an article in the Pepperdine student newspaper, Graphic, Maddox states:

As I understand it, the Bible says nothing about homosexuality as we use the term today.  It neither accepts nor rejects it, and, yes, I am very aware of the biblical passages that appear to address the issue.  To decide what we should do with it, I believe we must look to broader biblical principles that might seem unrelated on the surface. 
This should not be disconcerting, for we have already done this on a number of issues.  Slavery is an issue about which we have drawn conclusions that contradict the accepted practice of all societies in scripture and effectively dismiss some of God’s specific commands.  To condemn slavery requires that we call on scriptures that do not address it, and discount those that do address it by appealing to overriding biblical principles. 
There are many other such questions, past, present and future.  Interracial marriage, whether women must wear veils in church and whether they are allowed to speak, whether men may have long hair, divorce and remarriage, when life begins, genetic engineering and cloning, environmental issues, the pros and cons of a capitalistic economy, globalization, poverty, genocide, and how we should relate to extraterrestrial life if we ever encounter it — all these are examples of issues that are either not addressed in scripture, or are very muddy.  We would shudder if someone suggested we follow the clear scriptural teachings and examples on such things as women’s issues or genocide.  We must not approach any of them simplistically.

For a mathematics professor, he makes a lot of sense.  (Lame attempt at a joke; I never was great at math.) The truth is, our interpretations of the Bible have changed.  We just need to be logical and knowledgeable about the Bible.  If we are able to answer their rhetoric we can make convincing arguments.  Those who do not have faith will find it difficult to debate religion with authority because they do not hold the faith that we have. Even though many non-believers are very knowledgeable about religion, most religious people will not take credence to their words merely because they do not have faith.  Therefore, we have to speak the language of our persecutors and know how to refute them.

So I want to end this post with a few last thoughts from Professor Maddox in his response to another article by Pepperdine Accounting Professor Marilyn Misch, who had written an article stating that homosexuals should remain celibate. (The entire foundation of Dr Misch’s article lies in the following syllogism:  All sexual relations outside of marriage are sin.  Homosexual relations are (by definition) outside marriage.)  Here are Professor Maddox’s final remarks:

[First,] the reality of homosexuality is very difficult to sort out in the context of faith, even if one is forced to face it in a loved one, or in oneself.  Many faith traditions are addressing the question, are at different points on the journey, and are drawing different conclusions as they go.  I am not claiming here to present definitive answers to the biblical questions.  I am merely proposing that Dr. Misch did not present them either. 
Second, it is against my nature to write as I have written here, especially when I realize how incompletely I have addressed a complex issue.  The reason I must write is that I feel for the many readers of Dr. Misch’s article who are struggling with the reality of homosexuality in the context of faith, only to find their situation, indeed their entire selves, reduced by her article to a simplistic and faulty syllogism, implying that their entire sexual and romantic natures are nothing more than an inclination to sin.  Such undiscerning judgment has done much damage to struggling Christians.
This judgment has reduced many people to despair and led to their ultimate suicide.  And it was not because they lacked a support structure to resist temptation; it was because the romantic attraction and, yes, the love they felt for another was called sinful, and absurdly compared to such things as the addiction of alcoholism, the predatory abusiveness of pedophilia, or the birth of a retarded child.  In their hearts these struggling people wondered if their love was really like these tragedies. 
Furthermore, I know of many deeply religious people who threw away their faith, either because the dichotomy produced by simplistic exegesis was the source of irreconcilable internal contradiction, or because they tired of the naïve and undiscerning arguments presented by those who clearly could not understand their situation but claimed to represent God. 
Finally, I do not want us to be polarized by the issue of homosexuality.  Simplistic arguments in black and white can only polarize a community.  Life and faith are much more colorful and complex than Dr. Misch’s article suggests, and there will always be questions to which we do not have completely satisfying answers.  As a mathematician, I find such inconclusiveness disconcerting.  But I believe we must be willing to live with some inconclusiveness, even on matters as volatile as homosexuality, and even when it produces dissonance within our own hearts and disagreements between us. 
We all have much to learn, and much we have never experienced.  I accept that some questions do not have clear answers, and I have learned to live with the dissonance, not because I am content with it or because it allows me to live how I please, but because I am on a journey of faith.  God is leading me somewhere, and I am doing my best to follow.

The next post will be my final post in this series on Religion and Sexuality, and after that, we will return to our regularly scheduled program.

Deus Caritas Est, Veritas Est Amor

God is Love, Truth is Love

If anyone says that “God hates…” then stop them there.  God loves. In one of the articles (Copeland’s “Homosexuality: A Christian Perspective”) that I read in my research, which initially started out promising, the author’ss main thesis ended up being that God gives up on homosexuals that have gay relationships.  My initial reaction what “what the hell?” though I didn’t use hell, I used another four letter word that isn’t appropriate for a discussion of religion.
Copeland, the misguided Church of Christ minister that I mentioned yesterday, wrote that:
Three times in this section we find the expression “God gave them up (over)” (Romans 1:24,26,28). The point is clear: when people choose to reject God, or to recreate Him in their own image, God “gives them up” to “go their own way.” Unrestrained by God in any way, they gravitate into increasing levels of immorality! For some, it involves heterosexual immorality, such as pre-marital sex or adultery. But for others, it includes homosexuality and lesbianism.

I will never understand Copeland’s belief that God gives up on homosexuals.  Of all of the statements that I read in my research, this is THE most ludicrous. However, his statements only became worse:

And what is the consequence of such behavior? The apostle Paul referred to such people as: “…receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (Romans 1:27) An illusion to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS? We cannot say for certain, but none can dispute that those who are willing to follow God’s Word as to sexual conduct have less to fear about STD’s than those who choose to disregard Him!

Matthew 5: 1-12, known as the Beatituteds is the best refutation of these statements by Copeland.  Read them and consider for yourself:

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

These are not the words of Paul or one of the disciples, these are the words of Christ.  Few, if any, Christians would deny that these are the words of Christ.  The “Sermon on the Mount” as found in Matthew Chapters 5-7, are the cornerstones of the Christian faith.  In the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus laid out for us the plan for salvation and eternal life.  It is our guidebook, and we should take it seriously.

Also, we can use the Epistles of Paul as our guide to the truth of God’s love.  In Ephesians 4:15, Paul says “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”  We who profess to be Christians should remember the admonition of the apostle Paul when it comes to sharing God’s Word with those with whom we differ:

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

There is no place for a self-righteous, arrogant attitude on the part of those who but for the grace of God would be just as guilty of sins as those we are trying to reach!

In June 2002, Dr. Larry Keene, a founder of the “Church of the Valley” in Van Nuys, California, presented a lecture, “How Our Church Dealt with Gay Christians” at Pepperdine University, a Church of Christ school, where about 300 people attended the Convocation that was sponsored by Amnesty International in cooperation with Pepperdine’s Gay-Lesbian-Straight Alliance (GLSA).  The Pepperdine student newspaper, Graphic, published several articles (letters to the editor) about this lecture.  In one of them, a student, Jared Stuart, wrote an article titled “Pro-Con: Does the Bible accept homosexuality?” In this article, Stuart states that

One young woman rose up with the Bible in her hand and began defending her theological position. It became apparent that the Bible was the theological source of authority for most in attendance. It became even more apparent that many in the audience viewed the Bible as a literal, evangelical and fundamental source of authority.
Their point of view disabled them from seeing a contrasting perspective. They were there to defend the truth. But does the truth really need defending? Does not the truth eventually stand the test of time, and will it not eventually become self-evident within human consciousness regardless of whatever authority stands against it?

Stuart continued by stating:

Throughout the Bible there are equal and opposite points of views for any one subject. This dual perspective allows us to grapple with the very nature of God, and thus respond like he would in our daily lives.
I do not think it was his intention for us to handle the modern issues we are facing by using canonized letters, written among sister churches 2000 years ago, as a source of legal code for today’s events.

And one of my favorite passages from this article, Stuart states:

It is for this exact reason, conversely, that we must not use time-encapsulated passages within the Bible to condemn the practice of homosexuality, an orientation which has existed within nature and society for as long as humans can remember.
Common sense leads a human being to the conclusion that monogamous homosexuality is just as moral as monogamous heterosexuality. Perhaps not as common, but certainly as moral.
When one ceases to view the Bible from a literal, evangelical and fundamental perspective, one does not cease to see Christ as his or her complete Lord and Savior. I would wager to say that one sees him as Savior even more. This is the church’s responsibility and duty — to convey to believers the noble right and awesome task to use the Scriptures wisely.

We may not be able to use the Bible as our final authority on sexual orientation. But as we search for the truth, we can and should use the Bible as our final authority on how we should treat one another along the way. A young Jewish scholar once asked Jesus:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 36-40)

We cannot let hate consume our faith.  Too often, ministers preach about what is wrong.  They should be teaching what is right.  As I have said before, one of the great things about my personal minister is that he preaches/teaches about how to be better humans and Christians, not the hellfire and damnation that too many ministers make the cornerstone of their sermons.  Remember, God is Love, Truth is Love, and as Christians, to love God is the greatest of commandments.

My next post will examine what we should do as Gay Christians.

Veritas Vos Liberabit

The Truth Shall Set You Free—John 8:32
What’s the Truth About Homosexuality?

I have a friend from graduate school, who is Catholic, who always said that the only problem he had with homosexuality was that they could only have pre-marital sex. Since gay people could not be married, they could not have marital sex.  Now I do have to give a caveat here:  My friend is from San Francisco and is a married heterosexual, and he was just as much a promiscuous fornicator before his marriage as the rest of us, but because he is now married he believes that he can take the high road.  I’m not faulting him on this, just stating the facts.

Being a member of the Church of Christ, this is really a non-issue because marriage is not a religious sacrament within the church.  Marriages are recognized whether they are performed in the church by  a minister or by a secular authority.  The only true doctrinal differences my friend and I had was over the idea of a Pope and the Eucharist.  He firmly believed, as most Catholics do, that the Eucharist, or the Rite of Transubstantiation, the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood (respectively) of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.  The Church of Christ, as does many Protestant churches, believe that the Lord’s Supper is a merely symbolic act done in remembrance of what Christ has done for them on the cross.  Sorry for the Catholics out there (no offense is meant), but I have always seen the Eucharist/Communion as symbolic and really do not see the difference because Catholics will still say that all that is accessible to the senses remains the bread and wine as before. (A side note, our church does use grape juice instead of wine mainly because we have underage people who are members of the church.  In the past, the lady who always put together the communion would occasionally use her own home-made muscadine wine if she had not been to the store that week to get the grape juice. It was always quite fun to see the look on people’s faces when they realized this substitution.)

With this introduction aside, there is still much controversy going on as to whether homosexuality is genetic or environmental in origin. (If you have been reading these posts, then you know that I believe/know that homosexuality is genetic and natural.) Many theologians believe it should be easy to understand why, for if “God made them that way” then it is not their fault they are homosexual and it must not be a sin to act out their desires. I personally do not need any research that might suggest a genetic origin as a defense. Many Christians believe that it is either environmental or that there is a predominance to be homosexual and thus can be “resisted.”

The Components For Developing A Predisposition To Homosexuality

Tim LeHaye wrote a book called The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know About Homosexuality.  LeHaye believed that there were components that were the basis for developing a predisposition to homosexuality.  He stated that a person can (and many do) have all these components and still not be a homosexual. As listed and described by LaHaye, these components include:

  • A Melancholy Temperament
  • Inadequate Parental Relationships
  • Permissive Childhood Training
  • Insecurity About Sexual Identity
  • Childhood Sexual Trauma
  • Early Interest In Sex
  • Youthful Masturbator And Sexual Fantasizer
Mark A. Copeland, a sadly misguided minister of Fortune Road Church of Christ in Kissimmee, Florida uses LeHaye’s components for developing a predisposition to homosexuality and uses the following formula:
A Predisposition Toward Homosexuality
That First Homosexual Experience Multiplied By Pleasurable and Positive Homosexual Thoughts
To Which Is Added
More Homosexual Experiences
Multiplied By
More Pleasurable Thoughts
A Homosexual
Copeland states that “when one already has a “predisposition” towards homosexuality, exposure to homosexual experiences and pleasurably reflecting upon them can create a powerful attraction difficult to overcome.”  He goes further by stating that “so powerful can these experiences and reflections be that one not even need to have developed a ‘predisposition’ to be drawn into this sort of behavior.
LeHayes and Copeland’s argument is not hard to dispute. Let’s look at these so-called components for developing a predisposition to homosexuality:
  • A Melancholy Temperament:  Yes, I and many others in the GLBT community do have a “melancholy temperament,” which I think of as the genetic tendency for depression. My mother suffers from depression and so do I.  However, Prozac is a wonder drug and has helped me combat this.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Inadequate Parental Relationships:  I had wonderful relationships with my parents.  I may not have had the best relationship with my father, but what son doesn’t often disagree with their father?  Go back and read my Father’s Day post to see more of our relationship. Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Permissive Childhood Training: My parents were quite strict with me growing up.  There was very little if anything that I was allowed to get away with.  My mother was a nurse and being the second child, my early childhood development went easily but was handled firmly by my parents.  I know that some people who were raised too strictly grew up to be quite wild.  Think of any preacher’s kids that you know.  I was not raised that strictly, but strict enough with a set of values that I still cherish.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
  • Insecurity About Sexual Identity:  I never thought I was a little girl.  I have an older sister, who was my main playmate growing up, but she was very much a tomboy and we explored the countryside around our house.  We climbed trees, played games, etc.  I did not play with dolls, nor did I play with toy trucks either.  I loved G.I. Joe.  How more American boy could you be?  I never dressed up like a girl or put on make-up.  I never did any of those things that are seen as insecurities about sexual identity.  I was a boy, and I loved the fact that I had a penis.  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO! Well, okay maybe the love of my penis, but that had nothing to do with sexual identity. It juts meant that I was proud to be a boy.
  • Childhood Sexual Trauma: None whatsoever. There is nothing more to say about that.
  • Early Interest In Sex: Not really.  I didn’t even understand about sex until I was a teenager, when my sister explained to me what it was.  I was fairly naïve and did not even really know what homosexuality was until I was in my teens and past puberty. I knew I had feelings for guys, but didn’t know what it meant.
  • Youthful Masturbator And Sexual Fantasizer:  In this instance, does “youthful” mean pre-puberty or post-puberty.  If LeHaye is speaking of puberty onward, then we are all youthful masturbators and sexual fantasizers.  I have only ever known one guy who did not masturbate (but he did have a lot of sex).  He did not masturbate because his father was a Baptist minister, and he had been taught that masturbation was a sin.  Instead, he had lots of sex with different girls and did not consider a handjob as a form of masturbation.  I first masturbated around the age of 13 when puberty was in full swing. (It came as quite a surprise to me when semen [which I had no idea what it was] came out of my penis after my first attempt, but it was a lot of fun and like most young guys, it became a somewhat regular routine.)  Did this have anything to do with my homosexuality? NO!
What We Should Really Be Considering

The Bible is completely silent on the issue of homosexual orientation. And no wonder. Homosexual orientation wasn’t even known until the 19th century.

The discovery that some of us are created and/or shaped in our earliest infancy toward same-gender attraction was made in the last 150 years. Biblical authors knew nothing about sexual orientation. Old Testament authors and Paul assumed all people were created heterosexual, just as they believed the earth was flat, that there were heavens above and hell below, and that the sun moved up and down.

In 1864, almost 3,000 years after Moses and at least 18 centuries after the apostle Paul, the German social scientist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was the first to declare that homosexuals were a distinct class of individuals. It was a big moment for all sexual minorities. It’s our Columbus discovering the New World. It’s our Madame Curie discovering radium used for Xrays. It’s our Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. It may seem like one small step for the rest of humanity, but it was a giant leap for us.

Ulrichs assured the world of what we who are homosexual already know in our hearts. We aren’t just heterosexuals choosing to perform same-sex behaviors. We are a whole class of people whose drive to same-sex intimacy is at the very core of our being from the very beginning of our lives.

Although the word homosexual was not used for the first time until later in the 19th century, Ulrichs recognized that homosexuals had been around from the beginning of recorded time, that we were “innately different from heterosexuals,” and that our desire for same-sex intimacy and affiliation is intrinsic, natural, inborn and/or shaped in earliest infancy. According to Dr. Ulrichs, what may have looked “unnatural” to Moses and Paul was in fact “natural” to homosexuals.  Therefore, if Paul did not have a concept of homosexuality, how could he have been denouncing it?  The answer is simple, he could not have been.

One of the arguments that Christians use to ignore or denounce homosexuality is that God has given up on us.  I will be discussing this in my next post.

Abusus Non Tollit Usum

Just Because Something Is Misused Does Not Mean It Cannot Be Used Correctly.

Churches of Christ generally see the Bible as historically accurate and literal, unless scriptural context obviously indicates otherwise. Regarding church practices, worship, and doctrine, there is great liberty from congregation to congregation in interpreting what is biblically permissible, as congregations are not controlled by a denominational hierarchy. Their approach to the Bible is driven by the “assumption that the Bible is sufficiently plain and simple to render its message obvious to any sincere believer”. Related to this is an assumption that the Bible provides an understandable “blueprint” or “constitution” for the church. Historically, three hermeneutic approaches have been used among Churches of Christ.

  • Analysis of commands, examples, and necessary inferences;
  • Dispensational analysis distinguishing between Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian dispensations; and
  • Grammatico-historical analysis.

The relative importance given to each of these three strategies has varied over time and between different contexts. The general impression in the current Churches of Christ is that the group’s hermeneutics are entirely based on the command, example, inference approach. In practice, interpretation has been deductive, and heavily influenced by the group’s central commitment to ecclesiology and soteriology. Inductive reasoning has been used as well, as when all of the conversion accounts from the book of Acts are collated and analyzed to determine the steps necessary for salvation. More generally, the classical grammatico-historical method is prevalent, which provides a basis for some openness to alternative approaches to understanding the scriptures.  Therefore, I am going to use these approaches to look at the New Testament scriptures concerning homosexuality.

The Gay Christian organization Soulforce is a wonderful resource for study, particularly, their publication, What the Bible Says–And Doesn’t Say–About Homosexuality.  The Rev. Dr. Mel White, the co-founder of Soulforce, discusses in this publication, in his “Fifth Premise,” the six biblical texts that are used by some people to condemn homosexuality.  He explains what Genesis 2:21-25 (The Creation Story), 19:1-14 (The Story of Sodom), Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (The Holiness Code), Romans 1:26-27 (Natural and Unnatural), and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 (The Mystery of “Malakois” and “Arsenokoitai”) says about homosexuality.  As a member of the Church of Christ, there is really no need to study what the Old Testament in Genesis and Leviticus have to say about homosexuality because those laws were overridden by the New Covenant/New Testament of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, this post will focus on the Pauline Epistles that many use to condemn homosexuality.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.—Romans 1:26-27.

Paul is writing this letter to Rome after his missionary tour of the Mediterranean. On his journey Paul had seen great temples built to honor Aphrodite, Diana, and other fertility gods and goddesses of sex and passion instead of the one true God the apostle honors. Apparently, these priests and priestesses engaged in some odd sexual behaviors — including castrating themselves, carrying on drunken sexual orgies, and even having sex with young temple prostitutes (male and female) — all to honor the gods of sex and pleasure.  Did these priests and priestesses get into these behaviors because they were lesbian or gay? I don’t think so. Did God abandon them because they were practicing homosexuals? No. Read the text again.

In the Soulforce video, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, the Rev. Dr. Louis B. Smedes, a distinguished Christian author and ethicist, describes exactly how the Bible says these promiscuous priests and priestesses got into this mess. Once again it has nothing to do with homosexuality:

SMEDES: “The people Paul had in mind refused to acknowledge and worship God, and for this reason were abandoned by God. And being abandoned by God, they sank into sexual depravity.”
SMEDES: “The homosexuals I know have not rejected God at all; they love God and they thank God for his grace and his gifts. How, then, could they have been abandoned to homosexuality as a punishment for refusing to acknowledge God?”
SMEDES: “Nor have the homosexuals that I know given up heterosexual passions for homosexual lusts. They have been homosexual from the moment of their earliest sexual stirrings. They did not change from one orientation to another; they just discovered that they were homosexual. It would be unnatural for most homosexuals to have heterosexual sex.”
SMEDES: “And the homosexual people I know do not lust after each other any more than heterosexual people do… their love for one another is likely to be just as spiritual and personal as any heterosexual love can be.”

Dr. Smedes is right.  We have not rejected God; we are merely trying to understand.  Our sexual orientation is not a choice, instead it is a gift from God, and we cannot change who we are.  We were born this way.  How many of you would have chosen to be gay, if you had the choice?  Would you have chosen the hardships we face as gay men and women?  Wouldn’t heterosexuality be the easier way?  “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat”  Matthew 7:13.  The gate for heterosexuality is wide-open and easy, but the gate for homosexuality is narrow and difficult.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (malokois), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (arsenokoitai), Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind (arsenokoitai), for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.—1 Timothy 1:8-11

These are the last two places in the Bible that seem to refer to same-sex behavior. We can combine them because they are so similar. I have underlined and put in parentheses the two words that should be examined the closest in these texts: malokois and arsenokoitai.  First let us examine the word malokois.

There have been 44 different interpretations in English of the word malokois.  Most common through history have been weaklings, effeminates, or homosexual.  I believe all of these are incorrect interpretations of the word.  Greek scholars say that in first century the Greek word malaokois probably meant “effeminate call boys.” The New Revised Standard Version says “male prostitutes.” Today in Modern Greek, the word translates to “common.”  White argues that the term is used for the word catamite, which is a fairly consistent interpretation by most Biblical scholars.  A catamite was a young hairless boy used for sexual pleasure by older men.  This derives from the more Ancient Greek practice of pederasty (remember that Corinth is in the Greek Peloponnesus).  The practice that Paul is condemning is and always has been that of pedophilia, not homosexuality.

No one has really ever known what to make of the Greek word arsenokoitai that Paul seems to have originally came up with. The exact meaning of this word is lost. It seems to have been a term created by Paul for this verse.  Rick Brentlinger, of, says:

Arseno is the Greek word for man and koite is the Greek word for bed, used euphemistically to mean having sex. We say ‘he slept with her’ when we mean, had sex with her. In the same way, koite-bed was a euphemism for having sex.

It does seem to be a compound word in which the original meaning has been lost to us.  Arseno has the same meaning today as in Ancient Greek which is man or male.  Koitai though is a little more difficult.  I am not a scholar of Ancient Greek, but I have tried to understand the use of words (historians have to do that if they want to remain as accurate as possible).  Brentlinger states that it means “bed,” whereas modern use of the word translate it to mean “looks.”  White has a differing interpretation:

As for arsenokoitai, Greek scholars don’t know exactly what it means — and the fact that we don’t know is a big part of this tragic debate. Some scholars believe Paul was coining a name to refer to the customers of “the effeminate call boys.” We might call them “dirty old men.” Others translate the word as “sodomites,” but never explain what that means.

White continues by saying that:

In 1958, for the first time in history, a person translating that mysterious Greek word into English decided it meant homosexuals, even though there is, in fact, no such word in Greek or Hebrew. But that translator made the decision for all of us that placed the word homosexual in the English-language Bible for the very first time.

The fact is, there is not clear evidence that homosexual orientation or the love between two men and two women is a sin.  The Bible is completely silent on the issue of homosexual orientation. And no wonder. Homosexual orientation wasn’t even known until the 19th century.

Remember what Shakespeare said in The Merchant of Venice (Act 1, Scene 3), that even “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

The truth about homosexuality will be discussed in my next post.

Sola Scriptura

By Scripture Alone

For me, this boils down to two very simple truths: I believe that the Church of Christ is the best path to salvation and I am comfortable with the Church of Christ. So lets examine these statements.

Congregational autonomy and leadership

Church government is congregational rather than denominational. Churches of Christ purposefully have no central headquarters, councils, or other organizational structure above the local church level. Rather, the independent congregations are a network with each congregation participating at its own discretion in various means of service and fellowship with other congregations Churches of Christ are linked by their shared commitment to restoration principles.  For me, this is one of the strengths of the Churches of Christ, not a failing as some would say.  We do not have a national or international convention, no sole authority other than the Bible to tell us how to govern our churches.  Many Protestant denominations meet and form new doctrines or reinforce old one, some even have great arguments over doctrinal practices that cause divisions within the churches. This is not so with the Churches of Christ.  For me, this means within my church, that I personally can make a change within my congregation if I can back that belief with the Bible.  My congregation knows me and loves me, so they will not abandon me. This may not be true of all Churches of Christ, but it should be.  We are to love one another.

Variations within Churches of Christ

While there is an identifiable mainstream within the Churches of Christ, there are also significant variations within the fellowship. The approach taken to restoring the New Testament church has focused on “methods and procedures” such as church organization, the form of worship, and how the church should function. As a result, most divisions among Churches of Christ have been the result of “methodological” disputes. These are meaningful to members of this movement because of the seriousness with which they take the goal of “restoring the form and structure of the primitive church.” At my church, we don’t hear sermons on hellfire and damnation, we hear sermons on how to be a better Christian; how to love our fellow men and women, and how to encourage others to do the same.


“If it’s not in the Bible, then these folks aren’t going to do it.”— Carmen Renee Berry, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church

Churches of Christ seek to practice the principle of the Bible being the only source to find doctrine (also known as “sola scriptura”). The Bible is generally regarded as inspired and inerrant. Also, the Churches of Christ believe strictly that the New Testament is the new covenant with God brought by Christ. Jesus, through his teachings, brought about a change in Judaism, that discarded many of the laws of the Old Testament. Therefore, those anti-gay scriptures in Genesis and Leviticus do not pertain to us today. The harshest “Christian” critics of homosexuality use the damnations of Leviticus 20:13 that states “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood [shall be] upon them.” The laws of Leviticus and its punishments in Chapter 20 are ludicrous for us today.  The laws of civilized nations do not kill children for talking back to their parents, or any of the other myriad of capital offenses described in Leviticus 20.

Doctrine of Salvation

Churches of Christ are strongly anti-Calvinist in their understanding of salvation and generally present conversion as “obedience to the proclaimed facts of the gospel rather than as the result of an emotional, Spirit-initiated conversion”. Churches of Christ hold the view that humans of accountable age are lost because of their sins. These lost souls can be redeemed because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice. Children too young to understand right from wrong, and make a conscious choice between the two, are believed to be innocent of sin. The age when this occurs is generally believed to be around 13, although it varies based on maturity.

The doctrine of salvation for the Churches of Christ is fairly simple.  Basically, it is to believe and be baptized for the remission of your sins, then live a life of example as given by Christ.  Churches of Christ generally teach that the process of salvation involves the following steps:

  1. One must be properly taught, and hear (Romans 10:17, Matthew 7:24);
  2. One must believe or have faith (Hebrews 11:6, Mark 16:15–16);
  3. One must repent, which means turning from one’s former lifestyle and choosing God’s ways (Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30, Luke 13:3);
  4. One must confess belief that Jesus is the son of God (Matthew 10:32–33; Acts 8:36–37);
  5. One must be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1Peter 3:20–21; Romans 6:3–5; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16); and
  6. One must remain faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10).

A cappella worship

The Churches of Christ generally combine the lack of any historical evidence that the early church used musical instruments in worship and the belief that there is no scriptural support for using instruments in the church’s worship service to decide that instruments should not be used today in worship. Churches of Christ have historically practiced a cappella music in worship services. And quite honestly, even if you have a church full of people who cannot sing, such as in my church, all of the voices together, and just their voices, is the most beautiful sound in this world. I have been to other churches, some that only use a piano or organ, others that have a full band: pianos, drums, tambourines, guitars, etc., and the musical instruments only drown out the beauty of the human voice. This is a personal preference of mine, but I do love a cappella music.

Personal Comfort

Also, the Church of Christ is my family. The small country congregation that I attend usually only has a maximum attendance of 25 on a good day. It is small and intimate. I have known these people all of my life, and though nearly a quarter of them are my family, the rest are like family to me. My grandmother was raised a Baptist, as so many southerners were, and she always told me that when she was baptized into the Church of Christ that it was truly like being welcomed home. I have always felt the same way. Some larger congregations of the Churches of Christ try to be more liberal in their practices to draw in a crowd, but at the same time are more conservative in their religious views. When I have attended such churches, I have not felt at home, but those churches that keep to the core beliefs of Christian love and fellowship do feel like I am entering a safe and loving place.

In the next post, I want to look at what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality.

Quid Est Veritas

What is truth?—John 18:38

Should We Live the Good Lie?

The New York Times article “Living the Good Lie” that I references in my post yesterday discussed how many gay Christians deal with religion and homosexuality. Denis Flanigan, a psychotherapist, believes that

Some gay evangelicals truly believe that to follow their sexual orientation means abandonment by a church that provides them with emotional and social sustenance — not to mention eternal damnation. Keeping their sexual orientation a secret, however, means giving up any opportunity to have fulfilling relationships as gay men and women.

The conundrum the psychologists in the article face is what to tell their clients. Should they try to help them be straight? Should they help them stay in the closet? Should they help them come out? Which was more important, religion or sexual orientation? Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College, a Christian institution, just north of Pittsburgh said “Many theorists in the gay-affirming world have taken a view that religion is a changeable aspect of personality. But people don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’ll be a Baptist instead of a Buddhist.’ Religion is the way the world makes sense to them, and for them that seems like a pretty stable attribute.” He began looking for a less polarized, more nuanced approach. Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization devoted to debunking the ex-gay ministry, disagreed with Throckmorton, “I think Throckmorton means well and really wants to help people reconcile their faith and sexuality. However, the more appropriate way is for people to find a more moderate religion that doesn’t force them to live at cross purposes with their sexual health.” And this brings us to one of the main point of this post. If we are not entirely happy with our brand of faith, why do we not chose a more moderate religion? The reason is because, as Flanigan believed, a person’s “church provides them with emotional and social sustenance.”

Many of the men and women who have strong religious faith who cannot move past the erroneous preaching of hate instead of love find that they must continue to live in the closet, even though they acknowledge their homosexual attractions and yet refuse to live openly.  These people use the term same-sex attracted instead of homosexual.  According to Throckmorton, “They would say they have attractions to the same sex but haven’t formed their core identity around that.”

Last fall, Jim Swilley, the bishop of the Church in the Now, in Conyers, Ga., gave a moving, hourlong coming-out sermon to his congregation, his response to a spate of suicides by gay teenagers and, perhaps, to rumors in his church about his own sexual orientation. “There are two things in my life that I didn’t ask for . . . one is the call of God in my life, and the other is my orientation. I didn’t think that those two things could ever be compatible,” he told his congregation.  Swilley had been married twice.  In fact, it was his second wife, Debye, who persuaded Swilley to come out. When they started dating, Swilley told her about his attractions to men. “Let’s get married; we’ll figure it out,” Debye said. Once they agreed to divorce, he intended to remain celibate for the rest of his life and to take his secret to his grave, but Debye challenged his hypocrisy. “You tell people to experience the real God in the real world, but you’re not real,” she told him. “You don’t believe God loves you as you are.”  Swilley, who is writing a book about his experience, says that any therapy that doesn’t involve coming out is pointless. “You can’t believe the stuff I watched people go through,” he said “and they are all still gay all those years later. And all the people we married off to the opposite sex are divorced.”

After years of experimenting with various treatments, Douglas Haldeman, a psychologist who opposed is to conversion therapy and has been working with gay men recovering from those same therapies since the early ’80s, came to the same conclusion as Swilley. “The clients keep trying,” Haldeman said. “The danger is that it promotes fraudulent relationships, and their mates finally leave them.” He saw too many gay men pressuring themselves to be someone they weren’t and saw spouses trying to adapt to marriages that cheated them of emotional and sexual intimacy.

The American Psychological Association clearly stated its opposition to conversion therapy and unequivocally described homosexuality as normal. But it also offered a nuanced view of religious gay people who did not want to come out. The A.P.A. considered the kind of identity therapy proposed by Throckmorton and Yarhouse to be a viable option. No effort needed to be expended trying to change a client’s religion or sexual orientation. Therapy, in fact, was to have no particular outcome either way, other than to guide the client closer to self-acceptance, whatever the client believed that to be. The difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity was microscopically parsed. “Acceptance of same-sex sexual attractions and sexual orientation may not mean the formation of an L.G.B. sexual-orientation identity,” the report stated. “Alternate identities may develop instead.” It further stated that acting on same-sex attractions might not be a fulfilling solution for everyone.

In their solution, or more likely non-solution, the A.P.A. is guiding therapists with no true map.  Each persons psychological make-up is different.  They tend to want to find an easy answer when there is not one.  I personally do not believe that a life in the closet is a healthy solution, because you are lying to yourself which destroys you from the inside.  I also do not believe that abandoning my faith was ever a viable option.  I never once considered it.  I did on occasion consider finding a more moderate church, but the fact that I was raised in the Church of Christ did not make this a viable option for me and my faith in God.  A true member of the Churches of Christ is not likely to go find another church that believes something that is not in the New Testament scriptures.  The Churches of Christ (and the Stone/Campbell restoration movement as a whole) was founded because the Presbyterian Church of which Thomas Campbell was a member met to lay judgment on each of its members on a weekly basis in order to determine if  they should be allowed to partake in the Eucharist/Communion or not.  Campbell felt that God was the only judge of our faith, not man, and therefore wrote the The Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington which was a starting point for the Campbell–Stone Movement, leading to the development of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ and the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

The particular beliefs of the Churches of Christ and why I hold them so dear are the topics of my next post.

The Churches of Christ and Homosexuality

An Introduction

A friend recently sent me two articles from the New York Times about homosexuality and religion.  These articles were published in print in the Sunday Magazine (pg. MM30) on June 19, 2011.  More about that later, but it made me think back on the struggles that I faced (and to some extent still do) about my own Christianity and homosexuality.  I am a member of the Churches of Christ.  Most people consider it to be a very conservative church.  Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through common beliefs and practices. They seek to base doctrine and practice on the Bible alone, and seek to be New Testament congregations as originally established by the authority of Christ.  When I began to become aware of my sexual orientation, I began to question also what it would mean to be gay and Christian.  Not everyone who comes out has this struggle, but if you grew up in a religious family, then this is a very vexing question.  I began to look for resources online.  Was there a support group for gay members of the Church of Christ?  How did the church receive homosexuals?  What would other members of the church think if they knew I were gay?  What should I do?  What does the Bible say about homosexuality?  It was all very confusing and also difficult to find answers related specifically to the Church of Christ. One reason for this is if you Google homosexuality and the Church of Christ, then you are likely to come up with a wide range of sources for the United Churches of Christ.  So I had to dig deeper.  Ten years ago there were plenty of sites for larger church organizations, but really nothing for the Church of Christ.  Even today there is still very little out there.  There are several references to a a group called the A Cappella Chorus, a group formed in 1979 by gay and lesbian members of the Houston area Churches of Christ as a fellowship to provide educational and spiritual support to each other and the Church as a whole.   According to the information I found: “Since [1979], additional fellowships have formed in many large urban centers. Named an A Capella Chorus because most congregations of our fellowship have no instrumental music, the organization also serves as a network for gay people in small towns and rural areas.” However, I cannot find anything current on this group other than a few anti-gay rants by members of the Church of Christ from 1986.  Apparently there were “chapters” in at least four cities: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Tampa, and they published a monthly newsletter.  If they are still out there, I can’t find them on the internet, and this was the closest I came to finding a group of GLBT church members, other than rumors of a Gay/Straight Alliance at Pepperdine University and a group of GLBT Harding University alumni who wrote The State of the Gay at Harding University published through a group called HU Queer Press.  According to HU Queer Press:

Welcome to HU Queer Press and The State of the Gay! We are made up of a variety of queers with varying affiliations with Harding University. The State of the Gay is a self-published zine that aims to give voice to the experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding. It is part storytelling, part religious and political critique, and partly a manifesto of hope for Harding’s future. The voices enclosed are the unedited and uncensored voices of individuals who are all too familiar with censorship. In truth, there is no single, identifiable goal of this zine other than to put our voices out there.

With so little to be found out there positive for gay and lesbian members of the Church of Christ, I wanted to write a series of post that would not only examine homosexuality and the Churches of Christ, but also to to discuss homosexuality and Christianity as a whole.  I wanted to share with you the fruits of my research, the journey I took, and how I will proceed on my journey.  I also wanted to establish a place where others questioning their sexuality or homosexual members of the Church of Christ could go to get answers.  I don’t have all of the answers, but I want to connect with other members of the Church of Christ and begin a discussion.  I also would like a discussion of religion and sexuality in general.
I know that some of you are not religious.  You have questioned me about this before and to some extent criticized me for my Christianity.  I will not be apologetic about it.  I do hope that all of you will read these posts and that we can have a genuine discussion.  And if you are asking why I don’t simply find a more accepting church, I will answer that in this series of posts.
I am a Christian and at the core of my belief and faith is contained within the following Bible verses that I do my best to always keep in my mind:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  Matthew 7:1-2

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 22:36-40

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

I also want to leave you with this from Wikipedia (I know it is not always a great source) about homosexuality and the Churches of Christ:

Except for the Bible, there is no universal belief, creed, or confession of faith among the various independent Churches of Christ. Congregations of the Church of Christ, each individually led by local elders or pastors, set policy for their own individual congregations. Members believe they become a part of the Church of Christ when they are added by God as believing, confessing, repentant persons immersed in water (Baptism) for the forgiveness of sins. A confession of faith precedes baptism but does not include a declaration or denunciation of homosexuality. Most persons within the international fellowship of autonomous congregations would likely believe that homosexual activity is incompatible with living a faithful Christian life. Positions taken by Churches of Christ, through various church related publications and from church affiliated colleges and Universities, are almost unanimous in their opposition to homosexuality in any form. No congregations that condone homosexuality are known to exist; however, views on the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage among individual members range widely from very conservative to progressive. Marriage is not believed to be a sacrament of the church, and members are not required to be married “in the church”, though the practice is common.
Many Churches of Christ are beginning to address this issue with an open and compassionate approach. Several universities associated with the fellowship have held forums and conferences to address the issue and to open up discussion on the approach Christians should take toward homosexuality.
Openly gay and lesbian persons will find it difficult to find a congregation willing to include them in church life if they are unrepentant of what the church considers an ungodly lifestyle. Even openly gay baptized believers who are celibate, though unwilling to change their beliefs concerning homosexuality, may find it difficult to be accepted. The “disfellowshipping” of gay and lesbian persons from congregations is not unheard of. However, many urban and even small-town congregations are actively opening dialog with and seeking to minister to the gay population in their locales.

The first substantive  post of this series will be tomorrow and will examine what others are saying about how to deal with religion and homosexuality.  

A few brief notes about these posts:

    1. I will refer to the Churches of Christ as either the Churches of Christ or Church of Christ.  To be absolutely correct, when referring to the Churches of Christ one should not capitalize church, and it world-wide congregations should be referred to as “the churches of Christ.”  However, this can be a bit deceiving and/or misleading, so I will used the capitalized version.
    2. The Churches of Christ do not consider themselves Protestants, nor do they refer to the world-wide congregations as a denomination.  In fact, this is a practice recognized by the government of the United States.  If you enter the military and are issued dog tags, they usually place your religion on there: Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Protestant, etc.  If you are a member of the Churches of Christ, then they are only allowed to put “Christian” and cannot put Protestant.
    3. Though the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church are also part of the Stone/Campbell Restoration Movement.  I am not an authority on those historically linked churches (I won’t even say that I am an authority on the Churches of Christ, but it has been my church for 33 years, and I have been a member for 21 years).  For the differences see the Wikipedia articles on the historically related Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ or the less historically related United Church of Christ.
Here are links to the full series in order:
  1. Quid Est Veritas (What is truth?John 18:38)
  2. Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone)
  3. Abusus Non Tollit Usum (Just Because Something Is Misused Does Not Mean It Cannot Be Used Correctly.)
  4. Veritas Vos Liberabit (The Truth Shall Set You Free—John 8:32)
  5. Deus Caritas Est, Veritas Est Amor (God is Love, Truth is Love)
  6. Vince Malum Bono (Overcome Evil with GoodRomans 12:21)
  7. Via, Veritas, Vita (The Way, The Truth, and The Life—John 14:6)